When Nintendo took to the stage at the Nintendo Switch reveal and showed off ARMS for the first time. Many people (myself included) were sceptical. It looked all kinds of ridiculous and not at all to be what gamers were wanting Nintendo to announce. Well, after spending many hours with the game, I’m convinced that ARMS is a great example of what Nintendo needs to do more of with the Switch.
As soon as you boot the game up, you’re overloaded with visual charm. It’s bright, vibrant and full of personality. The hero of ARMS are without doubt the 10 characters on display. For the most part, they’re loveable. Like Overwatch, there’s not much background to each character provided in-game and it’s largely up to your imagination to figure out where they’ve come from as well as their current place in the world. If there was ever a game which I was yearning to have Amiibo for, it’s ARMS.Whilst it seems quite shallow at first, the depth of ARMS comes with the fact that each character has their own special ability. For example, Spring Man will enter unlimited charged attacks when he’s low on health. Further to this, each character starts off with a choice of three ARMS and you can mix and match as you see fit. There’s seven ARMS attributes including Fire, Ice, Wind, Stun, Electricity, Explosion and Blind. Combining your ARMS with the special ability of each character, can dramatically change the outcome of the fight.
The game was originally thought to be a title that’s primarily played using the Joy-Con (and motion controls) and the game is fun that way, but before you jump into anything serious, you’ll want to pick up a traditional controller. Motion controls are a lot of fun when someone is standing next to you, but traditional controls make ARMS feel like an entirely different game (in a good way).The Grand Prix is where most players will start. It’s essentially the single-player portion of the game which challenges you win 10 straight matches (on a number of different difficulty levels). It’s an absolute blast to play through, but once you’ve gone through it once, there isn’t a whole lot of reason to go back.
Thankfully, there’s some other creative modes including V-Ball (where you hit a ball over the net with your ARMS) and Hoops (in which you must dunk your opponent in a basketball ring) and these are a lot of fun. But once again, once you’re a few hours in and you’ve played each of these mode a dozen times, they do become quite old. Nintendo has stated that they will continue to provide new characters, ARMS and stages, so let’s hope that they stay true to their word.Thankfully, the online portion of the game is probably Nintendo’s best effort to date. You’re able to jump into Party Mode which can hold anywhere up to 20 players at a given time, as you fight your way through several different match modes in order to collect coins (which you’ll then spend on unlocking ARMS).
It’s fun to kill some time, but the real fun comes by heading into a lobby with a friend or a ranked match. To take part in a ranked match, you’ll need to complete the Grand Prix at a surprisingly hard difficulty level. This is something I’ve not seen from Nintendo before, so it’s great to see them give one of their games a more serious online mode. I was also pleasantly surprised at just how customisable your lobby is when playing with a friend online. You’re able to change the amount of coins that a player needs to get to win as well as whether special match types (Hoops, V-Ball etc) are included and if special items are dropped in matches or not.
I’m quite concerned about the longevity about ARMS in its current state. All the modes are very fun and the characters are brilliant, but you’ll quickly realise that the ARMS you’re unlocking for your characters are just the other ARMS from each of the 10 characters. This provides very little incentive to spend the huge amount of time that it would take to unlock all of them. Unless you have a particular favourite who you spend a majority of your time with but still want to use other characters ARMS.
It’s a rarity these days that you come across a game which feels like nothing you’ve ever played before, but ARMS is exactly that. It’s fresh, vibrant and genuinely a lot of fun to play. It’s a fighting game with depth, which even non-fighting enthusiasts can get into. I have some concerns about how long it will take for the game to become stale in its current state, but I’m equally excited to see where Nintendo takes the franchise.
The Nintendo Switch version of this game was played for the purpose of this review.